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The Adventures of TINTIN : The Secret of the Unicorn - An overview of the phenomenon created by HERGE, brought to life on screen by SPIELBERG. (Movies To See Before You Die - Thriller / Animation)

23 Nov, 2011 | Movie Reviews / 2011 Releases / 10 Most popular Articles AT BTC / Movies To See Before You Die / Thrillers

TINTIN – There can be three kinds of relationships with this adorable name. For few TINTIN would mean a lot, as a memorable friend associated with their childhood memories. For some it may be just a character whose comic book’s they might have read once or twice and are familiar about his works vaguely. And for the rest, this might be a name just heard with the recent release of Spielberg’s movie “The Adventures of TINTIN – The Secret of Unicorn”. So keeping this in mind, I would like to start by these amazing historical facts about the world of Tintin and Herge, his creator.

The History of Tintin
As the spellbinding history of Tintin goes, the character was created by a Belgian artist (cartoonist) HERGE (Georges Prosper Remi), when he was in his early twenties. And it got first featured in Le Petit Vingtième” ("The Little Twentieth"), a weekly youth supplement published along with the Belgian newspaper “Le Vingtième Siècle” ("The Twentieth Century") in early 1929. The first story was titled “Tintin in the Land of Soviets” which was later on published in a book form in 1930.
In its comic book journey of around six decades (from 1929 to late 80s), Tintin was introduced as a young reporter, who is sharp, brave, clever, imaginative and gifted with many human qualities. He is always accompanied by his faithful dog called Snowy in all his adventures roaming in various parts of the world. He is shown to be well familiar with many foreign languages and can drive different automobiles including a tank, plane and helicopter. Physically he is a fit athlete, a fine swimmer, an energetic mountaineer who even does Yoga at times and has an above normal body-strength along with exceptional fighting skills.
Having all the above mentioned qualities he is portrayed as quite slim in built whose age is somewhere between 18 and 30. Though never revealed in any of the comics, this age just remains an estimate taking a hint from his various activities like living or travelling alone with only Snowy, visiting pubs during his investigations and having a passport.
Once as a true expression HERGE himself stated that TINTIN existed as his personal expression of a young investigator and that might be the reason why the character comes out to be so realistic, lovable and believable to everyone.
The Amazing Fact of its Huge Popularity All Over The Globe
TINTIN made HERGE one of the most famous Belgian citizens worldwide and became an international success in its later years post the World Wars. It also got famous due to its brilliant comic references of many major historical events of the 20th century intelligently included by Herge in Tintin’s various adventures making them a highly enjoyable read, even for the adults. As admitted by many critiques and fans, due to these real life inclusions in its storyline, perfectly placed with all the human elements, Tintin right away pulls them into his own mesmerizing world of interesting investigations supported by many hilarious characters. While reading the comics one feels like being a part of the search along with Tintin and Snowy, which satisfies the reader in a very unique way as compared to the other available stuff in the market, even today. And due to these exceptional merits, The Adventures of Tintin is considered as one of the most popular comics series of the twentieth century, with its translations published in over 80 languages, sold worldwide.
But here the most amazing fact about this phenomenal success of TINTIN Comics is that after its first release in 1929, till HERGE’s death in 1983, there are only 23 ORIGINAL COMIC BOOKs in circulation all over the world in different languages, written and illustrated by HERGE. The talented creator left an unfinished work, which was later published in 1986 with the title “Tintin and Alph-Art” after his demise. So in totality there are only 24 TINTIN Comics published till now and yet it remains one of the most famous, most liked and most read comics published all over the globe till date.
Though HERGE also came up with other comic book series with characters called “Quick & Flupke” and “Jo, Zette and Jocko”, but none of them could match the gigantic popularity achieved by TINTIN. According to IMDB.com, the comic book was also adapted for a Cartoon T.V. Series more than once, first in the late 50s and 60s and then later on in the early 90s. Few individual animation films as well as motion pictures with actors were also attempted in this era which unfortunately couldn’t match the excellence achieved by HERGE in his books.
TINTIN and SPIELBERG’s Mega Animation Project
It is said that before his death in 1983, HERGE said that if any filmmaker was to adapt the adventures of TINTIN to the big screen, then Steven Spielberg was the only man for the job. And recently when Spielberg announced a project on TINTIN by himself, then fans all over the world got excited taking a hint from HERGE’s own words.
Steven’s first acquired rights to produce a film based upon the Adventures of Tintin series in 1983 at the time HERGE passed away but it got delayed and was reconsidered in 2002. But due to several production reasons the project got shifted to 2008 and got recently released in 2011. Titled “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn”, the film can easily be called the best effort so far in bringing the character alive on screen through animation. But first let me explain the format of animation used for this big project, which might not be known to many friends here.
The latest Computer Graphics venture directed by Steven Spielberg is based on a “Motion or Performance Capture Technology” which allows the makers to use real actors for their characters who act out their given roles on an empty stage with blank (single colour) backdrops. 
The performers are dressed in skintight bodysuits with many sensors covering the suits and their faces. These sensors relay even their smallest activity or movement back to a computer, where they get transformed or merged into a three-dimensional computer generated humans to be shown living in another virtual world. (The same technology was probably first used for Tom Hank’s POLAR EXPRESS). So here, the actors are not only providing the voices for their respective characters but are also enacting their roles in a much tougher settings than a normally shot film. But you don’t see them in skin, like all other films. In simple words, the technique can also be termed as an amalgamation of real life acting and computer generation graphics or animation adapted for a motion picture.
The FILM Experience
Talking about the film experience, it is superbly directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson. Written by Steven MoffatEdgar Wright and Joe Cornish, it’s actually based on not one but three TINTIN comics namely The Crab with the Golden ClawsThe Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure. Since the film is a representation of an already famous creative work of another artist from a different medium, so it needs to be reviewed from two different angles. One from the perspective of viewers who are already familiar with the world of TINTIN and Two from the angle of all others who haven’t read anything before about him and have just heard the name with the release of this Big Film.
However the one fact which can be equally said for both kinds of audience is that the film majorly impresses with its amazing & out of the world Graphical Journey much more than its original content and storyline.
For the viewers who are not familiar with TINTIN or any other enjoyable characters of the series, it would be like an old time adventure movie where incidents happen at a very fast pace leaving no time to think about them logically. And the truth is that in the end the new audience may feel like loving Captain Haddock & Snowy much more than the hero Tintin due to the way he is portrayed, quite different than the one seen in his comics. Though Steven gives them a lot to enjoy in all the funny sequences in the film, but still there are sure going to be mixed reviews from this particular section of viewers, experiencing TINTIN and his adventures for the first time.
Similarly, for the die-hard TINTIN fans living all over the world also, it may come out to be comparatively less enjoyable experience than reading the book. No doubt the execution is superb and incomparable to anything ever tried before in this particular genre written around the Icon. But somehow it all remains flat and less fun if we keep in mind the “Book Reading Experience” of all those gone years. Personally speaking, though I really enjoyed the outstanding graphical representation of my favourite characters on the screen, but frankly couldn’t feel the same excitement and thrill of reading all those great comics, still stuck fresh in my mind.
May be the major reason behind this is that the lead character in the film - TINTIN, doesn’t turn out to be the same intelligent yet funny reporter from the famous comics who is also a bit absent minded in his daily affairs. Steven Spielberg’s TINTIN seems to be more mature, serious and less fun loving character on the screen (even robotic at times, with no smiles), who fails to establish an instant loving relationship with his viewers. On the contrary, I found Captain Haddock more enjoyable than TINTIN, who is just the same, as seen and read in the comics. Along with him, Snowy also turns out to be the same mischievous dog, loved by all Tintin fans who have been reading his adventures since their early childhood. As a true fan of the series, I missed Professor Calculus a lot in this mega venture and really felt that Spielberg could have used more of Thomson & Thompson (the twin detectives) in the script, introducing them properly. Actually, this is a film which starts off assuming that the viewers already know a lot about all the characters in the comic series, which might not go well with the audience who have just joined in (in the 21st Century), particularly the kids.
Having said that, it still remains a must-watch for all, as a more Creative Visual Experience than a cinematic representation of a famous hero from a world renowned comics series. The film redefines the words ANIMATION and DETAILING, as never before on the silver screen, rectifying all the previous glitches seen in the performance capture technology used in other films (such as stone eyes in POLAR EXPRESS). Hence, it essentially needs to be watched in 3-D to have the complete experience as visualized for his audience by the living legend Steven Spielberg.
Another added advantage in the film remains it superbly composed and arranged Background Score which enhances the overall impact of the animation to many folds. Strictly following the original creator HERGE’s vision, the movie gives you some literally out of this world, mind blowing chase sequences in its second half, setting a new bench mark for all the animation movies currently being made worldwide. In fact these particular scenes clearly show the time, effort and love put in by the makers in bringing alive the phenomenon called TINTIN on the screen.
As per my suggestion, try to experience this gigantic attempt moving over the characters you already know and just notice how the director and his team has worked on the DETAILS in the backdrop of each and every frame in the film. What I loved the most in this adaptation is that just like in the books, Steven also suddenly gives you a vast frame on the screen filled with many microscopic details which is literally a colorful 3D treat for the eyes. In the comics too, HERGE gives you similar sudden full page drawings, dragging you into a different world of his imagination with just a page-turn. And that undoubtedly remains a USP of both the books and the film, which needs to be experienced at the earliest.
So, in order to honor the gifted creativity of HERGE, STEVEN SPIELBERG and their entire team of talented artists, this lovable and adorable venture needs to be seen by every cinema lover all over the world as a mandatory clause. In short, if you think ROBOT or RA.ONE (made in our part of the globe) were great movies with some incredible graphics in them, then just refresh and update your cinematic understanding by watching this trend-setting film from the MASTER.
Ratings : As an adaptation of the comic series it gets 4/5, but as a visual animated experience it goes Beyond any Rating Schemes respectfully.
(For friends who are new to the world of HERGE and his TINTIN, eager to know more about the comics series : Following is the list of all the TINTIN books as named in English. The publication dates are those of the original French versions. Books 2 to 9 were re-published in colour (in a fixed 62-page format) in 1943 and Book 10 was the first to be originally published in colour.)
1. Tintin in the Land of the Soviets (1929–1930)
2. Tintin in the Congo (1930–1931)
3. Tintin in America (1931–1932)
4. Cigars of the Pharaoh (1932–1934)
5. The Blue Lotus (1934–1935)
6. The Broken Ear (1935–1937)
7. The Black Island (1937–1938)
8. King Ottokar's Sceptre (1938–1939)
9. The Crab with the Golden Claws (1940–1941)
10. The Shooting Star (1941–1942)
11. The Secret of the Unicorn (1942–1943)
12. Red Rackham's Treasure (1943)
13. The Seven Crystal Balls (1943–1946)
14. Prisoners of the Sun (1946–1948)
15. Land of Black Gold (1948–1950)
16. Destination Moon (1950–1953)
17. Explorers on the Moon (1950–1953)
18. The Calculus Affair (1954–1956)
19. The Red Sea Sharks (1956–1958)
20. Tintin in Tibet (1958–1959)
21. The Castafiore Emerald (1961–1962)
22. Flight 714 (1966–1967)
23. Tintin and the Picaros (1975–1976)
24. Tintin and Alph-Art (1986) Unfinished work, published posthumously
25. A comic was also released based on the film Tintin et le lac aux requins or Tintin and the Lake of Sharks (1972) with the same title. But this was not created by Herge.
26. Tintin : The Complete Companion – By Michael Farr (A complete documentation of the History of Tintin in the making and the various sources from where HERGE took his inspiration. A must have in the library of his every fan)
Happy Reading with Tintin, Snowy and all others.

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23 Nov 2011 / Comment ( 2 )

I totally disagree.. It was not up to the mark. The character of tintin in the movie never reminded me of the real tintin. And haddok was really very irritating and seemed more like a headache.. As far as the graphics and 3d effects are concerned,they were not up to the mark.. You should really watch kung fu panda 1 and 2. That was the best animated movies ever..i havnt seen 3d and graphics of that standard anywhere..

Bobby Sing

You are welcome with your disagreements Anuraggirdhar and hope you have read me saying the same thing about the TINTIN's character.
Thanks for your comment and keep visiting.


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